Chickenpox, also known as Varicella, is one of the most common diseases for children. Generally it occurs in the pre-teen age, after which the person develops a sort of life time immunity from chickenpox. This means that the chickenpox virus gets activated once during childhood and is very unlikely to ever get activated again, even though it remains present in the body. However, people with weak immunity systems may suffer from a disease called shingles which is an advanced form of chickenpox and occurs late in life. Chickenpox is characterized by a red rash which spreads to all parts of the body in a matter of hours and which tends to itch uncontrollably. It is also one of the most infectious diseases and can be easily transferred by a mere touch.
Causes of Chickenpox
Chickenpox is caused when the varicella-zoster virus finds its way into our body and gets activated. The virus is very contagious and can be easily spread by a person already suffering from chickenpox by a mere touch but more often by sneezing or coughing. The virus becomes contagious immediately after it gets activated, even before the red rash appears on the body. It is at this time that people do not take care to be careful about spreading it to other since they don’t realize it is chickenpox.
Symptoms of Chickenpox
Chickenpox can be identified through the following Symptoms :
- An itchy red rash develops all over the body.
- Body temperature rises to 100.4°F to 103°F.
- Small red bumps which look like blisters appear all over the body, especially on the face, scalp and stomach.
- The blisters are filled with a water-like fluid which oozes out after some days.
- Old blisters dry and new ones appear. The cycle repeats itself several times.
The first noticeable signs of Chickenpox are a significant drop in energy levels of the child. A usually active child will start feeling tired and sluggish. Due to the sickness, they also feel irritated and can be prone to mood swings. The head starts to ache, almost permanently while the throat gets sore almost overnight. There is also a loss in appetite because being so sick, the child does not feel like eating anything. These signs should not be mistaken for a normal flu or viral fever. A high temperature follows soon after and within a day or two a red rash appears on the body.
Due to the unique red rash and hundreds of blisters all over the body, Chickenpox can easily be identified by visual examination. If there are small blisters on the scalp, no other proof is needed for a diagnosis of Chickenpox. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be done in which a small sample of skin is taken to be studied under a microscope to detect the virus, but it is very rarely required.
The diagnosis of Chickenpox generally depends on visual examination of the red rash along with other symptoms like sore throat and high temperature. The doctor will ask you whether you’ve had chickenpox before since it is in very rare cases that the chickenpox virus gets activated again. He may also ask you if someone close to you, with whom you have interacted in the past few days has been diagnosed with chickenpox since chances are quite high that you might have caught the virus from him.
The general prognosis is quite good for Chickenpox patients. It is a common disease among children and 90 percent children get infected with this virus before they enter their teens. It usually lasts for 7 – 10 days and the worst part is the itching which is quite uncontrollable. But with proper medications, it heals pretty quickly. Also, once you have had the Chickenpox, you develop a lifelong immunity against it.
Chickenpox is a very common disease and its virus is carried through the air which enters our body through the respiratory system. It is difficult to prevent this disease altogether. However, there are certain vaccines available. If your doctor recommends it, you can get yourself or your child vaccinated. Vaccination is especially recommended for pregnant women so that their child does not catch the chickenpox at least till the age of 1. Giving the vaccine even after the virus has entered the body can also help to subdue it and make the illness very mild.
Chickenpox can be of Two Types:
- Varicella or Chickenpox – It occurs in pre-teen children in the form of an itchy red rash and fluid-filled blisters. It gets healed within 7-10 days.
- Herpes-Zoster or Shingles – It occurs in adults who have already suffered from chickenpox as a child. The chickenpox virus gets activated again in adults when they undergo extreme stress and causes rashes and blisters which are much more painful than chickenpox.
Chickenpox is generally not a very severe disease and can heal very quickly with only the most basic medication. The body is left feeling weak and it takes several weeks even after the rash has subsided to become normal again. In people who have extremely low immunity, this disease can also result in bacterial infection, pneumonia and inflammation of brain, but in very rare cases only. At a later stage of life, the virus can get activated again and cause shingles in adults.
Home Remedies :
- Apply a solution of baking soda and water to the blisters to dry them out.
- Crush some leaves of Indian Lilac to form a paste and apply on blisters. You can also add the leaves to bath water since they have anti-bacterial properties.
- To get relief from itchiness, crush some oatmeal and mix it with your bathwater before soaking in it for 15-20 minutes.
- The blisters can also be coated with honey at least twice a day to help relieve the itchiness and prevent them from scarring.
Mild cases of chickenpox can usually be treated with home remedies and a healthy diet. For severe cases, doctors may recommend some antiviral drugs like acyclovir or immune globulin intravenous. Sometimes, chickenpox vaccination is also done after the virus has become active to reduce the severity of the infection. One point which must be kept in mind is that any medicine containing aspirin or ibrufen should never be given during chickenpox as it results in a condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Chickenpox and Pregnancy :
It is very important for pregnant women to get vaccinated against chickenpox, especially if they haven’t been affected with the virus during their childhood. If a pregnant women contracts chickenpox during the first one month of pregnancy, the child may suffer from some complications like weak immunity, low birth weight or premature birth. But if the chickenpox occurs in the last month of pregnancy, the child may suffer from serious birth defects like malformed limbs or under-developed brain.